Improve our community by better serving the older people

Suggestions for how we can improve our community by better serving the older people of Bethel

In January and February 2004, about two dozen senior people from Bethel and the Delta had pre-lunch brainstorming sessions at the Eddie Hoffman Senior Center and Chrissie Shantz Adult Day Center. Those present came up with ideas about the kinds of programs and activities they think are, or would be, useful to themselves and to others over the age of 55. I took notes and Beverley Bell of the EHSC staff or Barbara Liu (contract interpreter) assisted in translation. Any errors are mine.

It should be noted that those present were also thinking of the 300 other older people in Bethel. Their consideration was for all people residing in or using Bethel.

[Currently, no more than about twenty-five per cent of people over 62 (approximately 80 people) take advantage of City services. Fewer than 12-20 people consistently use congregant meals.]

Every year the City is required by the State to do a survey of those eligible for services, both current recipients and those not participating, in order to improve the program. The Senior Advisory Board must review the survey and add to it where necessary. Other ideas may come from this public process, if the senior program director and City staff would ever allow participation from the elders .

A couple of other things to note-

  • The seniors pointed out where they need assistance to do or organize these things, but they are not expecting to be passive recipients. For example, it is more consistent if a senior center or other organization sponsors the fishing trips instead of seniors relying on family or neighbors. The ice auger, food, and transportation are arranged. In return, the seniors will share their catch (many widowed seniors now must purchase their white fish. Their small monthly cash income is needed for rent or utilities.)
  • Most of the suggestions feature peer-to-peer activities or active senior contributions to others.

Unfortunately, many of these ideas have been suggested before (see past 10 years of Senior Advisory Board minutes). The meal and transportation the City supplies are appreciated. But, given the number of times in the last several years the seniors have discussed transferring the programs to a new provider, there is a definite need to improve services.

There isn’t a need for a senior center building, per se. [The existing building is dangerous and in need of repairs.] But a place to themselves and to use as a base of operations is valued.

Transportation is essential, but a special cab fare for seniors (which could be subsidized by donations or grants) is preferred.

The availability of five meals per week is essential. However, meals could be provided by contract, such as through local restaurants or churches or by sharing resources with the other agencies in town who also provide congregate and home-delivered meals.

A consistent request is “something to do” in terms of the skills and expertise that seniors have to share with others, but which is not now taken advantage of.
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  • Meals-currently, one hot meal during weekdays. Otherwise some people are unable to cook for themselves. Include more native foods.
  • Transportation-need regular, well-publicized schedules; Senior Citizen cab rates
  • Wood shop (full-size)
  • Technical assistance with social security forms, tax returns, other forms is helpful.
  • Field trips-Hovercraft fishing is welcomed, National Guard hangar, berry picking, cultural center
  • Visiting patients at hospital
  • Need social meeting with friends and peers, welcoming place, quiet, absence of gossip
  • Entertainment, games, Bingo
  • Books, other information resources (e.g., collections for wood shop, common area library)
  • Regular exercise, whole body
  • Qasgim or Kashim and equivalent gathering places for women-to function as advising and learning place for young people and elders. This could be on a drop-in basis, too. Some place and time when those needing feedback or advice or to learn something new could gather. Kids could find someone to ask about parents, growing up.
  • Peer-to-peer opportunity to learn new things-Eskimo dance, skin sewing, other (many did not have opportunity to learn these special skills when younger)
  • Public notice board-listing events, opportunities, commemorations etc.
  • Experts bureau, organize expertise sharing-for example, UAF courses use elders as class room resources (with an honorarium); researchers need technical assistance or skilled informants and collaborators; engineers or planners need expertise in the community itself; municipal leaders need ideas for financial health, etc.
  • Used to have Seniors tutor or lecture at schools, heritage teaching, survival and household skills, as visiting advisors or visiting lecturers
  • Need information center by seniors in order to direct others to information, someone linking experts, coordinate information; newcomers bureau.
  • Peer advice on civic services, such as pre-pay monthly for meals and transportation
  • Collective senior advocacy or intermediary, for example, reckless snow machine by underage drivers; piped water filters need changing (seniors now collect their own rainwater for drinking)
  • Cross-cultural assistance in Anchorage with hospital
  • Design, publish Y-K inter-cultural or transcultural guidebook for healthcare, school, Federal, State, private employees, et al. Sort of a Yup’iit Fieldguide to Gussacks Fieldguide to Yup’iit. (See Joan Metge & Patricia Kinloch Talking Past Each Other.) Provide training to medical personnel and others-“we want to help you learn how you can do your job better”
  • Regular informal gatherings or dialogues, twice a month, facilitated by Senior Advisory Board
  • Gather ideas
  • Invite people to visit, such as Russian day or Cup’ik day. Invite people from their work, e.g., LKSD, ONC, AVCP, USDA, Hovercraft, YKHC, etc. Then people would know what seniors do.
  • Pre-lunchtime seminars, symposia, brown-bag seminars, guest speakers, similar events.
  • Discussion of current events. For example, people may have children or great grandchildren or nieces in Qatar-why are they there? or be curious about the origins of SARS.
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1 Response to “Improve our community by better serving the older people”



  1. 1 Anonymous Trackback on 2006 June 28 at 3:55 pm
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